Wednesday, September 22, 2004

We want answers from the Electoral Commission, not silence

The Electoral Commission goes silent.

Because of the implications for the referendum on the European Commission it is imperative that there is full scrutiny of why and how the Commissioners reached there decision. There is already talk of legal action which will force full disclosure after the referendum. We at the North East No Campaign, are prepared to lay open our full application for public scrutiny. We expect NESNO will do the same after the result on 5th November.

Another example of the many complaints coming in:-

Dear Mr Crawford

I emailed you yesterday, 21 September, seeking information on the Commission's decision to designate North East Says No, and to withhold designation from North East No as best fitted to represent the 'No' case in the forthcoming referendum on the proposal to set up a regional assembly for the North East. (I repeat the text of the email below for your convenience).

I have to date received neither acknowledgement nor reply, though the matter is clearly a pressing one.

I shall therefore be most grateful if you will kindly confirm by return that you received the original email; and either respond to my questions or advise me of the date by which I may expect to receive answers to them.

I look foprward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerly

Stephen Howarth

Text of original message:

"Dear Mr Crawford

"I note that the Commission's press release announcing the designation of North East Says No Ltd as the lead 'No' campaigner in the forthcoming referendum on the setting up of a regional assembly in the North East makes no mention of the alternative applicant North East No; and gives no explanation as to why North East Says No better met the Commission's criteria for designation.

"I am minded to lodge a complaint about this but would not wish to do so without hearing both sides of the argument. I shall therefore be grateful if you will advise:

1 On what grounds the decision was taken?

2 Whether the Commission's decision was in line with the recommendation of its officials; and if not, on what grounds it overruled them?

3 Whether the submission of North East Says No was unambiguous in opposing the principle of setting up a regional assembly, or merely opposed to a council with the powers as now intended rather than to the principle of creating regional assemblies?

Whether members of the Commission with connections with
(i) Rowntree Trust; and
(ii) public sector jobs and board memberships, both of which might be considered 'parti pris' participated in the discussion and/or voted on the decision?

"I note from the press release that,

"If there is more than one applicant to be designated applicant for each outcome, The Electoral Commission is able to designate whichever of the applicants appears to us to represent the greatest extent those campaigning for the relevant outcome."

In the nature of law governing the conduct of public bodies, and especially so in the case of the Electoral Commission, which occupies a position akin to Caesar's wife in this respect, the words 'appears to us' are conditioned by implicit requirements - 'on the evidence of the facts' and 'by exercise of objective disinterested judgement' .

It is not clear to me how the well-established, highly organised North East No campaign led by of Mr Herron, with his track record for success in promoting understanding of public interest political questions could be rejected in favour of Nesno Ltd, which (as I understand matters) is linked to a political party with a weak or negative profile in the region and no track record for effective campaigning.

An online search for NESNO this morning on my computer (for example) did not produce a link to that organisation - or even their Conservative party sponsors - but did provide a link to North East No. QED - I think.

"I look forward to receiving a response, on the basis of which I shall decide whether a complain is justified, and if so whether it should be to the Commission or about the conduct of the Commission.

"Yours sincerely

"Stephen Howarth"

No comments:

Blog Archive

only search Neil Herron Blog